Let me say first that I'm not really a big fan of Bose products, however, in outdoor or low level listening applications I find them to be a good value.
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I wouldn't even spend THAT much for your outdoor front-end. A receiver like a Yamaha ($200 at BestBuy-less if open box) will serve you nicely.
Even lower cost, would be to just run longer 12ga. spkr wires from one of your other areas (home theatre?)if you have the extra speaker outs available.
If running the wires is a challenge, get a cable or security alarm person to run them. They can do miracles with running/hiding wire.
I've done TWO of these systems and simply ran off of a higher-end HT receiver (no contradiction of terms-just relative). Only out the cost of the wires and the labor for the cable guy (he was a sub-contractor and I just hired him "on the side") and put the speakers up myself and connected them.
Sorry...Can't help on the remote you are wishing for.
Good luck and Good Listening!
Of course I'll be wrapping my trees in tube traps :-)
Thanks all for the advice. Seems no one is suggesting higher quality amps, which is a relief (on my wallet, but I still want to buy something cool).
I also found some outdoor volume controls from Niles - wired in line with the speaker cables. Seems convenient, but I wonder what it does to the sound (one more component and likely another 10-20' of cable to get the volume control in a good spot).
The Airport Express DAC is excellent - I would even recommend it for dedicated systems. I am not a fussy DAC person, however, as I can't hear the differences that others claim. I do use some fairly good AKM DAC's in my Anthem AVM20 for serious listening in my main system (but this is being cautious, as differences from extensive A/B comparisons between the Sony bog standard DAC's in my CD players and the more expensive AKM's in the Anthem DSP were actually inaudible to me).
I work as an installer for these type of systems, as well as security and home theater. The volume controls are convenient to have, and I wouldn't shy away from them over concerns about degradation in sound quality. Just be sure to get one designed for outdoor use and put it in a gasket sealed housing. Same goes with the wire and any necessary crimp caps - use the weatherproof stuff.
Also, various animals find certain brands of speakers delicious. I can't say why, but I know that squirrels and deer seem to prefer outdoor speakers from Mirage over most "rock" speakers. They can really do some damage, so be prepared.
Great advice, thanks. I was prepared for the rain and sun, but not critters chewing on my speakers !
On a similar note, anyone have ported speakers outdoors? The new speakercraft line looks interesting, but they are ported. The ports are in the front behind the grill, so the bugs shouldn't be able to get in but I'm wondering about issues with driving rain getting into the cabinet.